This amusing farce holds the mirror up to nurture.
Set in the Little Acorns childcare centre, the action revs up as different parenting styles collide. In the midst is a newly trained childcare worker, Sarah, played engagingly by Emily Tomlins. On her first day she holds the fort while other workers ring in sick and disasters unfold at each turn. Throughout it all her love for the children is the rock around which a crazy world spins.
Each parent brings their own eccentricity. The breastfeeding mum avoids “negative auras”. The biker mum is the iconoclast who can spot humbug at a thousand paces. Bryan Probets plays the “born loser” dad encouraged by Sarah to stand up to his domineering ex-wife (Louise Brehmer). Alas, this bold stand starts to go pear-shaped, leading to the arrival of a police sergeant played hilariously by Karen Crone. In a virtuoso performance she captured the gait and demeanour of a Queensland police officer as if she were born to the role. In the midst of high drama she had the audience in stitches as she placed an order by walkie-talkie for pies “and mushy peas”.
This form of drama lends itself to La Boite’s theatre-in-the-round. The physical proximity of the actors and the absence of a proscenium arch plunge us into the action. The set design by Jonathan Oxlade and the lighting by Andrew Meadows make each audience member a fly on the wall observing the action.
Elise Greig has written a plot with more surprises than an unfolding nappy. The process of setting the scene in the first act relies on caricatures to the point of being at times a little heavy-handed; but this creates the tension which explodes in the second act in an energetically absurd fiasco. Ian Lawson’s directing keeps it moving right along and maintains the comic momentum.
This is a play about modern families and their conflicts. It reflects the huge changes in child care over the past three decades. So often our society changes faster than our culture. We wind up using yesterday’s concepts and images to deal with today’s reality. Hence the importance of a play like this. Hence also the importance of La Boite in its mission to nurture the little acorns of Queensland playwrighting.
Written by Elise Greig
Directed by Ian Lawson
Playing until 30 April 2005 at 8pm. After show discussion 22 April. Matinee 30 April 2pm.
Running time 2 hour and 15 minutes including interval.